Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF), presented challenge coins March 17 to members of the 2014 Navy Culinary Arts Team.
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Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, addresses Navy team members who competed in the 39th annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event (MCACTE) at Naval Station Norfolk. As one of the largest culinary competitions in North America, the MCACTE has showcased the talents of military chefs from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces since 1973. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Wilbur/Released)
The Navy Culinary Specialists, 17 Sailors representing 15 afloat and shore commands, competed the previous week at the 39th Annual Military Culinary Arts Competitive Training Event (MCACTE) hosted at Ft. Lee, Virginia.
The weeklong event is one of largest culinary competitions in North America. Since 1973, the competition has been conducted each year with the exception of 1991 and 2003, during Operations Desert Storm
and Iraqi Freedom
. The competition is sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and showcases the talents of military chefs from around the world in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces who prepare restaurant quality gourmet dishes during the week-long event.
“When I first began my Navy career, creamed chipped beef was about as good as it got,” said Adm. Gortney. “There was nothing gourmet about our menu then.”
Adm. Gortney spent nearly 30 minutes with the team. As he presented the coins, he asked each team member what dishes they prepared during the competition. He also highlighted the accomplishments of several of the team members. At least two of the Sailors earned prestigious ACF certifications, and every member of the team was recognized during the competition with an award. Together, they earned three gold, four silver, five bronze, and three commendable awards. Some earned more than one award.
Culinary Specialist Senior Chief Matt Compton, an instructor with Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk Navy Food Management Team, coordinated the three-week training program for the team prior to the MCACTE. Some of the team members had little to no experience in many of the skills required to compete at such a high level. “Considering the compressed training timeline leading up to the event, we were very pleased with the results,” said Compton.
During the intense training period for the team, Culinary Specialist Chief Chad Shiftlett of Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic, and Culinary Specialist First Class Gary Askins of Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet were the lead advisor and team leader respectively. Both are experienced MCACTE competitors. Their students trained hard -- even on weekends -- and it paid off. “We have really talented chefs throughout the Navy who don’t always have a chance to showcase their enormous talents,” said Shiflet. “Training opportunities like the MCACTE allow our junior Sailors to blossom into great chefs. It will also instill pride. That pride translates to high-quality food for Sailors serving aboard ships and shore installations.”
The effort the Navy team put into their preparation was evident during competition. According to Compton, the team performed above ACF standards almost across the board. “During each event, judges are watching each competitor during every step of each task,” said Compton. “They were very impressed with how our team performed. The judges commented that the Navy team’s sanitation -- how they maintained their work stations as they prepared food -- was way above that of the other competitors.”
Team members have all returned to their commands, where they can use their new skills to help the rest of their culinary team prepare new and exciting meals for their shipmates.
By Jim Kohler; Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk Office of Corporate Communications